Monthly Archives: February 2015

23. Enlistments to the end of 1914: background characteristics Part 2 – religion, units and service history

The last post examined a set of characteristics in relation to the men who enlisted from the Shire of Alberton prior to the end of 1914. This post concludes the overview of the men.

As noted in the two previous posts there were 134 men who enlisted in this group. However, the situation is more complicated than this because even though 134 men formally enlisted in the AIF prior to the end of 1914, not all of them were still serving up to the end of 1914. In fact, 15 (11%) of them were discharged before the end of 1914. The notes in the table below show that in most cases the men were discharged as ‘medically unfit’. The notes also show that most of those discharged at this point – prior to the end of 1914 – did eventually enlist. Individual enlistment papers indicate that when men fronted again to enlist they often did not indicate that they had already been discharged as medically unfit. There were also cases where an alias was used for the re-enlistment.

For the purposes of this post, the full complement of men who enlisted prior to the end of 1914 – the 134 of them – is used in relation to the single characteristic of religion, but the lesser cohort of 129 is referenced when looking at individual service histories. The service histories of the 15 men who were discharged to the end of 1914, but who then re-enlisted some time later, will be picked up in the relevant future cohort.


The relevant data from the Commonwealth Census of 1911, taken from Table 38. Male Population Of The Counties Of Victoria At the Census of 3rd April, 1911 Classified according to Religion (Exclusive of Full-blooded Aboriginals). for the county of Buln Buln, Victoria  has been matched against that of the cohort of the 134 enlisted men.

From the Commonwealth Census 1911:

Church of England          8,306         39%
Presbyterian                    4,897         23%
Methodist                         2,665        12.5%
Baptist                                  274
Congregationalist                 93
Lutheran                              192
Church of Christ                 114
Salvation Army                     78
7 Day Adventist                    17
Unitarian                                 9
Prot. (Undefined)               359
Roman Catholic               4,044          19%
Greek Catholic                         2
Cath. (Undefined)               176
Other [Christian]                 123
Total                                 21,349

From the individual enlistment papers of the 134 men:

Church of England                77       58.5%
Presbyterian                          20       15.5%
Methodist                              14       10.75%
Roman Catholic                    17       13%
Other Protestant                    3         2.25%
no record                                 3        –
Total                                     134

On the basis that the group of enlistees is a small sample, and accepting that the designation of ‘Church of England’ could have been used as a generic description for ‘Protestant’, there is little to suggest that, at this point in the War, the religious profile of those enlisting was markedly different from that of the wider community. At the same time, the over-representation of those identifying as Church of England and the under-representation of Presbyterian could be significant and warrant closer attention over time. However, as suggested, it might reflect not much more than the use of Church of England as a generic identifier for Protestant (as opposed to Roman Catholic). As the research progresses and the number of enlisted men becomes greater it will also be instructive to match the 2 characteristics of religion and occupation.


The unit that appears against each man is taken for the Embarkation Roll. It is possible that there were changes after this point, particularly given the re-organisation of the AIF battalions after Gallipoli. It is also possible that there were changes between when the men first signed on and when they left Australia.

Most of the group embarked from Australia in an infantry battalion, with the most common ones being the Victorian 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th and the Melbourne-based 14th. Approximately one-third of the men left in the Light Horse, with the most common regiments the Victorian 4th and 8th, and the 9th, which was a combined Victorian-South Australian unit.

Service history

As indicated, this section looks at the service records of the 119 men who had enlisted up to the end of 1914 and then served in the AIF from the time of their 1914 enlistment to the point when either they died on active service or they were formally discharged from service.

Given that they were the first to sign on and that they did so on an open-ended basis – ‘until the end of the War, and a further period of four months thereafter…’ – this first group were committing themselves from the very beginning of the AIF’s war to its very end; and, not surprisingly, there was a simple logic that generally held that the earlier a person enlisted, the greater the risk they faced.

The men faced a limited range of outcomes. Certainly one was that they would die on active service. They could be killed in action (kia), die of wounds (dow) or die of illness/injury (doi). In fact, 35 of the 119 men (29.5%) met this fate. This group faced roughly a 1 in 3 chance of either being killed or dying on active service.

Another outcome involved being wounded and then repatriated to Australia for discharge as ‘medically unfit’. Most commonly the wounds were either gunshot wounds (gsw) or shrapnel wounds (sw). Another common example, but later in the War, was ‘gassed’. Usually, the soldier experienced extended hospitalisation, commonly in the UK, and then repatriation to Australia. They generally carried some level of disability for an extended period, if not the rest of their lives. Some men were also discharged as medically unfit after being hospitalised with major illness or disease or even injury. The group of men discharged on the basis of being medically unfit numbered 33 or 38% of the cohort.

The figures are grim. An earlier post described the jubilant send-off for the men at the Alberton Station on 21 September 1914. With the benefit of historical hindsight the men that day should have had some basic maths put to them: they stood a 1 in 3 chance of being killed; or a 1 in 2 chance of either being killed or coming back wounded – or suffering from some major disease/illness – to live with a disability of some kind, most probably for the rest of their lives. Moreover, they might have been as young as their early twenties when they started on this path.

In fact, the men’s prospects were even worse than this because, as the table below shows, there were many cases where men were wounded but not then discharged as medically unfit. 48 individual men were wounded – some were wounded more than once – but only 33 men were discharged as medically unfit. Notice also that some of those killed later in the War, had already been wounded in earlier battles. Also, some 69 men were hospitalised at least once with some illness or disease – pneumonia, dysentery, VD, enteric fever, trench fever, malaria, neurasthenia, pleurisy, shell shock… – but clearly not all of these men were medically discharged. In short, the levels of deaths and medical discharges do not reveal the true extent of casualties. Of those still alive at the end of the War, there is only one man in the table below – William Henry Wheildon – who managed to last the entire duration of the War without being wounded or hospitalised with a disease or sickness or injury of some kind. He served in the Naval & Military Forces and was discharged in late 1918. Ironically, he died of influenza within one year of being discharged.

For those men who managed to make it through without being killed or discharged as medically unfit, there were two possible end-points to their military service. On 17 September 1918, PM Hughes announced that the 1914 veterans were to be brought back to Australia on special leave or furlough – commonly it became referred to as ‘Anzac Leave’ – in time for Christmas. The plan was that after 3 months leave in Australia they would return to the Western Front in time for the planned Spring offensive of 1919. At the time it was estimated that 7,000 men remained of the original 1914 enlistments. The plan caused consternation with the military command on the Western Front, as it was already grappling with the very much reduced size of the AIF, but in Australia the plan was popular. Effectively, this group of men had already been away for four years. In the table below there are 22 cases where men were returned under this provision. The earliest – Sydney George Collis – returned home in early October 1918 and the latest case involved John Comber Robertson who did not make it back until mid February 1919. Most of the men reached Australia in December 1918, with the War then over. Ironically, 3 men on the table either died or were killed round the time the leave was announced: James Singleton was killed in action of 9 August 1918; Terence Charles McCarthy was killed in action on 19 September 1918, 2 days after the plan was announced; and William Donovan Glanfield died of illness on 15 October 1918.

More men (26) simply served out their time and were returned to Australia and discharged through 1919 and even in to 1920. The discharge for these men commonly read as TPE: Termination of Period of Enlistment. It was up to a full year after the completion of the War – and 5 years of service – before many of these man finally made it home.

There were a few cases involving variations on the above patterns. 3 of the group were discharged in the UK in 1919. They were men who had immigrated to Australia in the period before the War: Thomas Courtney Sullivan (born London); Alfred Hartfield (born Sussex); and Thomas James Paterson (born Glasgow). Another of the men (Jack Garland) served from 1913 in the Royal Australian Navy and there is no record of his discharge available .

Finally, there are 2 cases that stand out because it appears that in both cases the individual concerned effectively discharged himself. It appears that Reginald Henwood who was wounded at Gallipoli in May 1915, hospitalised in the UK before being sent back to Egypt and then repatriated to Australia in September 1915, went missing without leave – ‘illegally absent’ – from 23/12/15. Eventually, in July 1920 he was formally discharged to close the book on him. However, it can be difficult interpreting what exactly happened when you rely on formal records like those in the personal files of the men who served in the AIF; and it is virtually impossible to use the same records to interpret motivation. For example, Reginald Henwood was actually reported in the local paper – Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative , 28 April 1916 – as attending a ceremony in Yarram on 26 April 1916 at which he was presented with the Shire Medallion. This was when, according to his service record, he was illegally absent and had been so for nearly 4 months. The newspaper report said that he had been wounded at ‘Lonesome Pine’ – Henwood had been wounded on 3/5/15, well before Lone Pine (6-9/8/15) – and had lost an eye, but the official record simply records ‘gsw upper extremities’ and it is not credible that such a serious injury would not be recorded. Henwood’s version of events, as reported in the local paper,  does not appear to line up with the official records.  Ironically, the very same article that praised the service of Private Henwood warned about bogus soldiers: A man came to Yarram recently, wearing some uniform, and was treated as a returned soldier, yet he had never so much as enlisted. At the same time, it seems remarkable that someone in Henwood’s circumstances would run the risk of appearing at a formal ceremony to receive awards and be feted as the returning hero. Then again, perhaps Henwood did see himself as the returned hero: he had volunteered, faced battle, been wounded and repatriated to Australia and so, as far as he was concerned, his war was over. Perhaps there was another R Henwood and identities have been confused. Incredibly, there was in fact another R (Rupert) Henwood – enlisted in Melbourne 25/8/14 – who was repatriated to Australia in 1915; but he returned to Australia on 15/4/15 and was discharged on 27/4/15. Consequently he could not have even been involved in the Gallipoli campaign.

The second case to do with someone who was illegally absent involved Edgar Charles Turnbull. Again, there are all the cautions about interpreting AIF records but the following appears to have been what transpired and, on face value, it is a rather distressing story. In Egypt in February 1915 he came down with pneumonia and was hospitalised in the UK. Other illnesses including sciatica and rheumatism were diagnosed and there was a recommendation that he be repatriated to Australia and discharged on medical grounds. On 30/8/15, his treating medical officer explicitly recommended: ‘Discharge to Australia as permanently unfit for active service’. At the same time, the medical board found that his capacity for ‘earning a full livelihood in the general labour market’ had been halved. However, the final recommendation of the medical board was that he not be discharged as permanently unfit but merely ‘changed to Australia’. Consequently, he was returned to Australia on 9/11/15, but he was not discharged. He subsequently took matters into his own hands and was illegally absent from 12/4/16. He was posted as a ‘deserter’ on 13/7/16. A warrant for his arrest was issued. Then much later, in 1933, he contacted the Army requesting a formal discharge. He was required to sign before a JP a ‘confession of desertion’ which he did on 22 July 1933. It was made clear to him that he had no right to wear medals and that he could not be issued with a Returned Soldier’s Badge. He then received his discharge papers which recorded that he had deserted. He tried to have the reference to desertion removed from his discharge papers and on at least 2 occasions argued that at the time he went AWL he was very sick. He claimed that he had been ‘sent back [to Australia] medically unfit’. He also claimed that he had been told he was ‘not wanted’. In a letter (24/7/37) he wrote: ‘I did not wrong intentionally (sic) and ever since have worked hard and been an honest and sober citizen’. He was having difficulty gaining work and his discharge papers with the reference to desertion were hardly of any use. A few years later his family saw the discharge papers and found out about his desertion. At that point he said he was cut off  from his wife and family. The last correspondence in the file covers desperate pleas for some kind of pardon.

The whole issue of desertion and the related practices of taking unauthorised leave – very common in the AIF – and challenging army authority – certainly not uncommon in the AIF – will be examined in later posts and set within the context of the AIF as a volunteer army.


These last few posts have looked at the group of men who enlisted in the AIF to the end of 1914. At the time there was unbridled enthusiasm for the War and the call to patriotic duty was overpowering.

The cohort from the Shire of Alberton was young – those between 18 and 25 made up nearly 75% of the entire group – single, and drawn predominately from the rural working class. The mobility of this group was a striking feature. There was a relatively small group of sons from local farming families.

Medical screening at the time was high and a large number of recruits were discharged as medically unfit in the first weeks of their enlistment. Most of those rejected at this point did subsequently re-enlist, presumably as medical standards were lowered.

While much was made at the time of the creation of a special light horse unit from South Gippsland, most of the men enlisted in the new infantry battalions of the AIF.

It will be instructive to compare the casualty rates of this first group of volunteers with subsequent ones, but it is strikingly clear that the odds of enlisting in 1914 and surviving – alive, unwounded and in good health – to the end of the War were particularly poor.


The Australian War Memorial

Embarkation Roll

Unit History: WW1

Australian Bureau of Statistics

Census of the Commonwealth of Australia, 1911

22. Enlistments to the end of 1914: background characteristics Part 1- movement, occupation, age and marital status

The last post identified 134 locals, with links to the Shire of Alberton, who enlisted to the end of 1914. This post begins to analyse the key characteristics of this group. The same methodology will be applied to future cohorts of men from the Shire who enlist from 1915 to 1918, to see if the basic characteristics changed over the course of the War.

As indicated, the list of those who enlisted prior to the end of 1914 is not necessarily complete. There is research going on in the background to establish if any of 20+ additional names should be added. Essentially these men fall into 2 categories: those for whom no AIF service record can be located, even though there were newspaper references at the time to their enlistment; and those for whom it is not yet possible to tie their name – e.g., W Rose – to the particular service record. Where additional records are uncovered, and it becomes possible to add names to the current list of 134, the relevant tables in these posts will be updated.

Qualifications like this are important because, as this post will show, trying to recreate the historical record of 100 years ago from individual pieces of information is difficult. Inconsistencies, variations and anomalies are common.

The table below builds on that from the last post by adding the following items of information: the place of birth, the place of enlistment, the address of the next-of-kin at the time of enlistment, the address of the individual volunteer at the time of enlistment, the occupation at the time of enlistment, and age and marital status at the time of enlistment. Future posts will explore other characteristics, including an overview of the war service of each individual volunteer.

In general, the information is taken from 2 key sources. Place of birth and place of enlistment are taken from the enlistment papers in each individual’s AIF service file. The other pieces of information are taken from the Embarkation Roll. However, specifically in the case of ‘occupation’, several pieces of information – the Embarkation Roll, the individual AIF service file, the Shire of Alberton Rate Book and the Commonwealth Electoral Roll for the Subdivision of Yarram Yarram – have been used. The intention here is to identify those men who were coming from the ‘family farm’. In one or two cases, a young man described himself as a ‘farm labourer’ or even just ‘labourer’ when in fact his father was an established farmer in the Shire and the young man was working with his father on the family farm. Similarly, a young man would describe himself as ‘farmer’ when, by looking at other evidence, it was again the case that he was working with his father on the family farm. In the table below, the term ‘family farm’ covers all situations where the son was working on the family farm. The qualification here is that even though there was a family farm it was also possible that the son was undertaking other work in the district – for example, one of them listed ‘horse breaking’ as his occupation – or perhaps it was work in addition to the work on the family farm. The more important point is that the table identifies all those cases where the person enlisting was the son – or possibly one of several sons – of a farmer. On the other hand, where the evidence suggests that the person enlisting was a farmer in his own right – the land was recorded in the rate book in his name, not his father’s – or the evidence is not sufficient to rule out the possibility that the person was a farmer, the occupation of ‘farmer’, as recorded on the various forms, has been let stand.

With the 2 addresses taken from the Embarkation Roll it is apparent that in most cases the volunteer simply gave his next of kin’s address – most commonly this was a parent – as his own address. At the same time, there are some exceptions. For example, Walter Tibbs (122) was a farm worker at Tarraville who had immigrated as a 15 year-old from Leeds in England. Most other immigrant workers simply gave their parent’s address in the UK as their own address, but Tibbs actually recorded his as Tarraville. The significance of this is that this young man – 21 at the time – who was killed at Gallipoli on 25/4/15 was not included on the Shire of Alberton Honor Roll. Nor was his name included on the Shire War Memorial. Yet, when his parents completed the Roll of Honor details for the National War Memorial they specified Tarraville as the place with which he was ‘chiefly connected’. It appears that despite all his efforts, and his family’s efforts, his presence in the Shire was never acknowledged or, probably more correctly, too easily forgotten.

The table certainly highlights movement as a key characteristic of the rural working class. There appear to be four relevant groups involved. First, there are what can be termed long-term residents: those who were born in the Shire, enlisted in Yarram and gave some location in the Shire as their own address and that of their parents. The two Graham brothers (47 & 48) serve as an example of this group; although even here there is an anomaly because only one of the brothers – Leonard Simpson Graham – is recorded as having been to school in the Shire.

The second group involved those who had been in the Shire for some time – they had been born in the Shire and/or spent time there as a child or adolescent – but who, by the time of enlistment, had moved out of the Shire. An example is George William Silver (109) who had been born in the Shire, went to a local school and had remained in the Shire probably up until his adolescence – judging by his 6 years in the Yarram Rifle Club – but who by the time of enlistment was obviously living in Melbourne. He was not included on the Shire Honor Roll. However, others in the same situation were included. The deciding factor in such cases appeared to be whether or not there was still a family connection to the Shire. For example, Gordon William Appleyard (3) was born in the Shire (Binginwarri) and went to a local school. Yet he was clearly not in the Shire when he enlisted (Rockhampton, Qld) and he gave his address as Barcaldine, Qld. However his next-of-kin’s address (Alberton) was in the Shire, and he was included on both the Shire Honor Roll and the Shire War Memorial (he died of wounds at Pozieres). Interestingly, John Henry Adams (1) – killed in action 8/8/1915 – also enlisted in Queensland and like Gordon Appleyeard, his family was very well known in the Shire (Calrossie). His address and that of his next-of-kin were both given as Yarram. Yet he is not on either the Shire Honor Roll or the Shire War memorial. The significant difference here appears to have been that the Adams family moved to Traralgon during the War (1916) and, presumably, as the result of the family connection being lost, the son was not seen as – or not remembered as – a local when it came to including the names on the Shire memorials.

The third group takes in those who came into the Shire and had established themselves as local by the time of enlistment. This includes the likes of Frederick Butler (17), John Crawford (29), Stanley Hawkins (56) and Ernest Singleton (111). It also takes in most of the 15 immigrant farm workers. Generally, this group had their names included on the Shire Honor Roll.

The last group was made up of those who had moved into the Shire, but only recently, and in some cases it might well have been that they enlisted in Yarram because that was where they found themselves just at that point in time. Had their work, or search for work, taken them to Foster or Sale they would have enlisted there. This group stands out because even though they had their medical in Yarram and enlisted in Yarram there is no indication of any long term involvement with the Shire – they were not born there, did not go to school there and their next-of-kin have no apparent link to the Shire – and, in most cases, their names are not included on either the Shire Honor Roll or the Shire War Memorial. Yet, clearly, they did enlist from the Shire.

The creation of these 4 groups is merely an attempt to impose some sort of order on what was a highly complex pattern of movement. Inconsistencies and anomalies across the table suggest that the boundaries between the groups were not as fixed as the model suggests; and whatever scheme is devised, there still has to be accommodation for personal judgements made at the time, 100 years ago. However, it is clear that the movement of this group of early volunteers was a distinguishing feature, and it is reflected in the simple observations that, for example, 16 of the men enlisted interstate; approximately 80 – more than half – of them had been born outside the Shire and nearly half gave, as their address on enlistment, a location outside the Shire.

Obviously the high incidence of movement is tied inextricably to occupation. By far the largest single group (44) is that where the men had simply described themselves as either ‘ labourer’ or ‘farm labourer’. When you add those who described themselves as – stockman, station hand, horse driver, gardener, butter maker, sawyer, horse breaker, jackeroo …. – and those working on the railways, in retail as grocer’s assistant , and the fishermen, the group is solidly rural working class. Within this description of rural working class, there are some in semi and skilled trades – plumber, carpenter, fitter & turner, telegraph operator, engine driver, motor mechanic, coach builder, painter, blacksmith, brick layer etc. There are also some from clerical positions. However, with the exception of a group of teachers (5) and one mechanical engineer, the number of professionals and higher level administrative and managerial representatives is very limited.

The other distinctive occupational group takes in the sons from family farms. Doubtless these 18 cases would have been well known in the district. These were the sons of farming families that had established themselves in the local community over the preceding 40+ years. The loss of the son’s labour and support for the family farm would have been significant. It would not have been an easy decision for the family to support the enlistment; but presumably patriotic duty overrode the significant cost to the family. Even with this group there are anomalies. For example, the 2 Scott siblings (106-107) came from a family farm background, yet the details of their individual enlistments suggest that the link with the family farm had been severed by the time they enlisted.

The number of cases involving farmers per se – they owned and were working their own farm – was very small and in fact when you look at their ages it is likely that only about half of the 8 cases identified in the table were such farmers. There was very little possibility that a farmer would – or even could – simply leave the farm and enlist.

Overall, at this point of the War, it is apparent that the burden of enlistment fell squarely on the rural working class, whose employment was often itinerant and casual, and a small group of young men – typically they were late teens or early twenties – coming from family farms in the Shire.

The following table gives a breakdown of ages. The number of ‘minors’ – those between 18 and 21 required written permission of their parents – is high. When this group is added to those to the age of 25 it is evident that this particular cohort was very youthful. The oldest volunteer at forty-one – twice the age of 53 of his fellow recruits – was William Henry Wheildon a miner from Yarram. He had already served in South Africa and in WW1 he served in the Naval and Military Forces in New Guinea.

Ages of volunteers to the end of 1914
ages                       %
18-20        33       24.6
21-25        65       48.5
26-30        22       16.5
31-35        11         8.2
36+             3          2.2
total        134      100

Marital status
At the time the expectation was that only single men would enlist and this is evident in this particular cohort, where only 6 of the 134 men were married.

In the first few months of the War to the end of 1914, it was the young, single rural workers who could best answer the call to enlist, not the farming families who were, literally, tied to the land. The exception was a group of about 20 young men from local farming families.


Embarkation Roll



21. Enlistments to the end of 1914: identifying the ‘locals’

Earlier posts (11, 12, 13, 14) initiated discussion on the issue of ‘local’ and identified men from the Shire of Alberton who enlisted in the period immediately after the start of WW1. In mid September 1914 there were a large number of men who enlisted in Yarram – most on the same day, 16 September – and who were then farewelled, as a group, from the Shire. Even before this, many individuals had made their own way to Melbourne – or some other recruiting centre – to enlist. However, these earlier posts have only covered enlistments to the end of September 1914. This particular post looks at all the enlistments (134) from August to the end of December 1914, employing the end of the year as a kind of historical marker. As the blog progresses over the next few years, the same methodology used in this post – probably employing intervals of six months – will reveal the complete picture of all the local men who enlisted over the course of the War.

The focus of the post is the methodology used to identify the men who are being described as the ‘locals’ from the Shire of Alberton who joined the AIF. The next post will look at the characteristics of the group of men identified.

From the start (June 2014) I have emphasised the ongoing nature of the historical research that underpins this blog and this post offers another opportunity to emphasise this key feature. It will become obvious that there are gaps and inconsistencies in the historical records that are being used. Work continues in the background to resolve these tensions, at least to the extent that it is possible when dealing with records that were created 100 years ago, within systems and for purposes which were specific to the time. There is also the possibility/likelihood that additional resources and pieces of information – for example, from family history research – will become available which can be considered in the research. At the same time, because the research is being presented via a blog there is the continuing opportunity to both extend and fine tune it. As additional evidence becomes available – including evidence that comes in response to the blog itself – the relevant information, including corrections, can be incorporated. This makes the blog, as a tool in historical research, a powerful option.

Local identity

In terms of this research, the two classic dimensions to the notion of local identity – place and time – interact in complex and dynamic ways. As stated in earlier posts, the Shire of Alberton was effectively the first local government area to be created in Gippsland; but over the years its initial expansive boundaries were progressively scaled back as other local government areas were created. These boundaries were still being redrawn within the timeframe of WW1. For example, the north-east boundary was redrawn as late as 1914 when the town of Willung passed to Rosedale Shire. Not much earlier (1902 and 1908), the boundary with the Shire of South Gippsland had been adjusted and the township of Hedley and the large area of Woorarra were excised from the Shire. One effect of these changing boundaries was that the physical description of the Shire’s boundaries did not always accurately reflect how people viewed either their own local identity or the local identity of others. The socially fluid nature of the Shire’s borders was very evident over WW1 in the reporting by the local press, where the details and experiences of soldiers in neighbouring shires were routinely presented. The research also shows that there was considerable movement between all the local Gippsland shires. Thus someone born in a town or settlement in the Shire of Alberton could, 20 years later, have been working and living in a neighbouring shire, while their parents and siblings continued to reside in the Shire of Alberton. Moreover, the movement from the Shire was sometimes much further than the immediate neighbourhood of Gippsland, and some young men who enlisted did so in Queensland, NSW and WA . Yet in many cases these interstate volunteers were still considered to be local. Then there were those who came into the Shire only a few years before the War started. Earlier posts have looked at the young, immigrant workers from the UK. These young men had not been born in the Shire and they had only been living and working there for a comparatively short time. Equally, there were many Australian-born itinerant rural workers who enlisted in Yarram but who had had only a short-term connection to the district. Both groups of workers were critical to the social and economic dynamics of the local community. There is also the issue of retrospectivity. As the War progressed – and as early as 1916 – there were men who had enlisted elsewhere, served overseas and then been discharged from the AIF, who settled in the Shire of Alberton. There were also some men who after their AIF service married a ‘local girl’ and moved into the district. More importantly, the Shire was a major locus for soldier settlement at the end of the War and this government initiative brought in many ex-service men who, prior to the War, had had no contact with the Shire. Many of these ‘post-service locals’ went on to play very significant roles in shaping the narrative of WW1 and local institutions such as the RSL; but they had had no association whatsoever with the Shire before they completed their service in the AIF.

As a general observation, to define ‘local’ it is necessary to work within two essential tensions: if the parameters to identify the men are set two wide, the focus on the Shire of Alberton as a separate and distinct community will be lost; and if the parameters are set too closely, the full and complex dynamic of the particular community will be lost.

Against this background, the key challenge for this research has been to come up with a methodology that can be applied now and at future defined points – as indicated, intervals of 6 months through to the end of 1918 – to identify all the men, clearly linked to the Shire of Alberton, who enlisted in the AIF over the course of WW1. There has also been a conscious intention to capture those men who, principally because of the nature of their work, tended to pass unnoticed in the community.

The basic methodology has been to employ the available range of relevant historical records that were created at the time. Each of these records is described in some detail below and, progressively, each record set will be added to the blog via individual posts. They will be added under the Resources tab and, at the time, there will be a detailed analysis of their creation, accuracy and significance.

There is one key qualifications to the methodology: the local connection must have been evident before, or at the time of, enlistment.

Also, as pointed out in an earlier post (12), there were several men who, according to newspaper reports of the time, had enlisted and were farewelled from Alberton on 21 September 1914 but who, given that there is no record of any AIF service for them, could not in fact have joined the AIF. All those who appear in the table below can be linked to their individual AIF service records, even if, as in some cases, their service was very short.

The Shire of Alberton Honor Roll
The Honor Roll was drawn up by the Shire Secretary (G W Black) after the War in 1920. It features the names of 447 men identified as local and additionally records the number (62) of those killed on active service. While this is the key record source it does not represent the complete picture of all the local men who enlisted. In the table below there are many examples of local men whose names do not appear on the Shire Honor Roll.

The list of railway warrants issued by the Shire Secretary

Over the entire course of WW1, the Shire Secretary maintained a list of all the railway warrants that he issued to men who had already enlisted in Yarram or who had formally commenced the enlistment process in Yarram. The passes were to provide free train travel to Melbourne to report for service, most commonly at Broadmeadows. The railway warrants were issued right through to late 1918. There were 474 warrants issued.

The list of men medically examined to the end of 1914

Early in 1915, the Shire Secretary was required to draw up a list of all those men (88 ) who had been medically examined, to the end of 1914, by the local doctors, in Yarram, as part of the enlistment process. This list provides another means of identifying men from the Shire who enlisted in this period. Most commonly, men who were given railway warrants also appear on this list. Post 1914, no equivalent lists exist, and from this point the actual significance of any local medical examination was significantly downgraded. In fact, in 1915 the local doctors refused to conduct such medical assessments because they considered their professionalism had been called into question by the AIF medical staff. Essentially, the AIF formed the view that country doctors were not rigorous enough – or were not competent – in assessing the medical condition of volunteers.

The Shire of Alberton War Memorial
The Shire of Alberton War Memorial itself was completed in 1921 but the names of those who ‘gave their lives for their country’ were not inscribed until 1930. The number of dead on the War Memorial (79) does not line up with the number of dead indicated on the Honor Roll (62). The inconsistency between two official record sets is surprising.

The table below also shows a difference between the number of the men (32) who died on active service from this first group of 136 locals and the number of them who were included on the Shire of Alberton War Memorial (17). This discrepancy relates primarily to the inclusion of those men featured on the honor rolls from the local schools and is discussed in the next section.

The honor rolls of various state schools in the Shire of Alberton
Within eighteen months of the War starting, the local state schools in the Shire of Alberton began to create honor rolls on which they inscribed the names of all their past students who had enlisted. They added to the honor rolls as the War progressed, marking in those who paid the ’supreme sacrifice’. By including their names on these honor rolls, the schools were obviously ascribing a sense of ‘local’ to all of their former scholars who had enlisted. The fact that an individual young person might have moved out of the Shire by the time he enlisted was not an issue. He was still celebrated as a former student of the school and the local area. Given the young ages of many who enlisted, the interval between finishing school and enlisting could be as short as only 5 or 6 years. In rural districts, the local state school was one of the most significant institutions – if not the most significant – in the community; and the significance attached to its honor roll was considerable. This was reflected in newspaper accounts of the various ‘unveiling’ ceremonies held at the schools. It was common for individual students to appear on more than one school honor roll. All the names that featured on these school honor rolls were considered by the community either to be locals or to have been locals, and the latter were still held in the collective memory and esteem of the community.  However, when the Shire Honor Roll was created the former students who had apparently moved out of the Shire were discounted. They were also discounted in terms of the War Memorial itself; and their missing names explain, in most part at least, the discrepancy in the number of dead referred to above. In this research, the former students have been included as locals, principally to recognise the intentions of those who created the school honor rolls in the first place. Their inclusion also enables additional historical analysis on critical issues such as family mobility and dispersal and the movement of labour in rural settings. The inclusion also helps keep a strong focus on the critical role played by the local state schools throughout the War.

Not all the school honor rolls from the Shire have been located and a small number may have been lost for good. If additional school honor rolls become available their information will be incorporated in the blog.

Community honor rolls in the Shire of Alberton
Many community associations and services in the Shire also created and maintained honor rolls throughout the War. As a general observation, these rolls featured men whose involvement in the association or service was current right up to the time they enlisted. The community honor rolls that have been used to this point are: the local community honor rolls from Blackwarry, Carrajung, Stacey’s Bridge and Madalya; the honor rolls of the Methodist Circuit and the Presbyterian Charge; and the honor rolls of the local ANA, the Yarram Club and Lodge 207. Hopefully, more such honor rolls will be located.

Newspaper accounts (Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative)

Where a person, not identified by other historical records, had been written up in the local press as a local of the Shire of Alberton he has also been included in the research group. The qualification here is that the person had to be described as someone linked directly to the Shire of Alberton. Those servicemen who featured in the local paper but who were identified with a neighbouring shire have not been included. At the same time, where men were living just outside current Shire boundaries, and the article(s) clearly represented them as local, they have been included. Importantly, in the table below a newspaper reference has only been made where there is very little – if any – other evidence available. As stated, throughout the War the local newspaper was in fact full of references to locals – and others – in the AIF. However in this exercise the paper has only been used where there is no other, or only limited, evidence at hand.

There was another local paper, in addition to the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative, available in the Shire throughout WW1. The paper was the South Gippsland chronicle and Yarram and Alberton advertiser. Unfortunately, the editions of the paper for 1914-1918 are not readily available.

Other documentary evidence
There are instances where some other form of documentary evidence points to a person who enlisted as being local to the Shire of Alberton even though none of the other historical records have identified him. The archives of the Shire of Alberton are one such source of additional documentary evidence. Similarly, people’s family history sources can be helpful in determining a person’s status as a local; and the same material can help clear up cases where there is confusion over the identity of a local. The electoral roll and rate book can be employed in the background as a means of establishing or confirming identity. They are limited in dealing with ‘minors’ but very helpful in building the picture of the local family. For example, they can be used to identify young men enlisting from farming families.

One other potential source of documentary evidence relates to the Shire Medallion. To this point, the only information on the presentation of these medallions comes from the local press. It was routine to feature stories about a special presentation of these medallions to groups of men, either departing or returning to the Shire. In some cases there was a reference to an individual soldier receiving one, or a relative being given it on their behalf. There were also articles on the number of medallions that had been handed out up to a certain point. However, unlike the case with travel warrants, there is as yet no sign of any formal list of the recipients of the medallions. If one is uncovered it will prove a valuable resource and it will be incorporated in the research.

Some observations on the table

The table below has been designed to show, at a glance, the pieces of evidence that link an individual to the Shire. For example, it is easy to see the cases where it is only a report in the local press that ties the individual to the Shire.

Closer inspection will begin to tease out some of the contradictions and inconsistencies. For example, 3 men – Charles William Engbloom, Samuel Edward Gay and Reginald Henwood – were each included, individually, on the honor roll of at least one local school, and for each there is an individual newspaper report that he received the Shire Medallion, yet none of these men was included on the Shire Honor Roll. How was it possible that someone who was presented with the Shire Medallion was not included on the Shire Honor Roll? There is a related but potentially more poignant inconsistency. James Burnett Pickett was killed at Lone Pine (7/8/15). He had been a student at 2 local schools (Yarram and Darriman). His name is on neither the Shire Honor Roll nor the Shire War Memorial, yet newspaper reports make it clear that his death was commemorated at at least two special services held in Yarram and that at one of these the Shire Medallion was presented to one of his relatives.

There are significant inconsistencies between the Shire War Memorial and the Shire Honor Roll. For example, Nathan Wellbourne Hepburn was killed in action on 28/6/1915 and his name appears on the Shire War Memorial but his name is not included on the Shire Honor Roll.

To some extent inconsistencies such as these can be explained in terms of the authorship of the particular record source. This will be considered in more detail when each resource is added to the blog. Briefly, for present purposes, the Shire Secretary was responsible for drawing up the list of names for the Shire Honor Roll; the names for the Shire War Memorial were supplied by the local branch of the RSL (Digger’s Club); and the Shire Medallions were the responsibility of the local recruiting/’farewell and welcome home’ committee. All this points to the need to have as many individual sources of evidence as possible.